Saturday, July 15, 2006

Blood, Sweat, and Tears

I was a bad little reedmaker all week long and so I ended up having to get up at 8AM on a Saturday morning to try to make a reed before my noon lesson. I figured I wouldn't completely finish it but I could at least take in something half-way decent. At my last lesson we spent quite a bit of time going over proper knife sharpening technique. I was very grateful for this because I knew that I had been doing something wrong; my knives NEVER felt sharp before. She got me away from the ceramic sticks and into a real sharpening block. Those had scared me up until then. It's amazing how much more cane you can pick up with a knife that's actually sharpened. I had been using entirely too much force in my reedmaking to try to make up for blunt knives. As a result of this, I ended up nicking my thigh while working on my reed tip. BLOOD.

It's 85 and high humidity so I won't go into the SWEAT.

The drive into the City was somewhat nervewracking because my reed activity made me leave the house late so I was hauling butt the entire time. I even witnessed a fender bender. The strange part was that I totally saw it coming. I was in the middle lane and could see that up ahead in the right lane cars were nearly completely stopped. The folks coming up behind me on the right were going entirely too fast. I quickly shifted to the left lane to get away from the inevitable. I think that about 4 cars ended up ramming into each other. Nothing serious, but these folks will all have to get new bumpers.

I am not making excuses for myself but the fact was that I got to the lesson already tensed up. Or should I saw more tense than usual? We talked briefly about reeds again and then I had to present my scales. She threw me off by asking me to do a different articulation. I fumbled the first few times but by the end I was ok. I'd rate my scale performance as satisfactory. They're improving but there's still a lot of room to grow.

We ended up skipping long tones and going right into the Giga from my Corelli piece. I had practiced it quite a bit over the week and was nervous about whether it would show. I did mostly fine with the notes and managed to include some varying dynamics. In my naivete I thought it was sounding pretty ok but I was missing the big picture. A lot of my choices had been somewhat misguided. T helped me understand ways to better phrase the passages. Everything she said was very helpful and whenever she demonstrated for me it sounded much more beautiful (even though she was purposely not using vibrato). I think that deep down I was feeling frustrated that I hadn't been able to figure it out on my own. She assured me that I was doing more than well and that it would all come with time. But still, I couldn't help but feel inadequate. Why can't my lines flow yet? Why is my air stream wimpy?

It was in this state of mind that we started a "pre-vibrato" exercise. This consisted mostly of controlled shouting so that I could isolate the area I will eventually get my vibrato chops from. I've struggled with vibrato and too much throat/nose in my singing so I've known (and dreaded) all along that vibrato would be a challenge for me. When you add self-consciousness into the mix, it's a recipe for disaster. I battled through the exercises, rarely getting them right. I continued on but eventually broke down. When I tried to make a sound it got caught up with a knot in my throat and my eyes welled up with tears. I was mortified! How embarrassing to be crying in front of one of my beloved teachers. Crying because I couldn't do something. TEARS.

She was very sweet about it and got me water and encouraged me. We went on for a few more minutes but with the instrument instead because I was just too uncomfortable trying to produce weird sounds with my voice. I was able to get a single beat in the middle of a long tone and we stopped at that point.

While I put my instrument away we had a nice talk. I was feeling ridiculous still and wanted to figure out my feelings. I know that I was frustrated but it's not like I wanted to give up. If anything, I was more motivated than ever to get through this hurdle and I wanted to convey that to her. This wasn't the first time I've shed tears on this journey and I know it won't be the last. She made me feel better because she verbalized something I had been feeling for a few weeks. It's like I am about to get to the next level but am not quite there yet. The levels before it were easier and faster to reach. I had been lingering somewhat and have recently started making progress again, to the point where I can sort of taste the next level. Being almost there is what makes one get frustrated. She said that she experienced those points in her own journey and reassured me that I WILL get through and that I will feel very good about it once it happens. And then it will be on to the next hurdle. She also said that not everything will come naturally. Some things I am naturally good at (not sure which ones she meant - I will have to ask her). Other things I will have to work very hard for. The messed up part is that as adult students we tend to focus on things we can measure easily like technique or intonation whereas my biggest challenges are going to be in the realm of musical expression. All these years I've merely been dabbling in music, getting into things half-way but always backing out when I really had to SAY something. I've reached the point where I need to start worrying about how my music is coming out, not just that the right notes are being played. I am so scared. I've been scared of this all my life. I think this is why I've always run very far away from improvisation (even though as a child I composed songs prolifically). I am very afraid that I have naught to say. That all I will be good for robotic playing. Rather than finding that out, I've quit while I was still ahead. But this time I am in for the long haul and I know that I will have to face my nemesis. This is the real reason I broke down. Because I thought for a second "I can't do this" and I had never really thought that before. The feeling of sadness that came from that thought overwhelmed me. I MUST do this.

I don't think I quite believe in me, but she seems to. She said that those things that are most hard are the ones we feel most proud of in the end. So I have to just believe that some day I will play music from my heart and soul, not just from my mind. Others will enjoy what I am playing not only because it's lovely oboe sound but because I am sharing myself and giving the music meaning through me. T said that if I don't share what's inside that I am being selfish. I guess that means that she thinks there is something good in me to share in the first place. Let's hope so.

I am determined to work through this but am still worried about whether or not I have enough talent. Only time will tell. For now, I just need to keep on practicing. That's the panacea.


oceanskies79 said...

Hi Hilda, thank you for sharing at my blog. Let time tell. Have fun with your instrument. I think at the end of the day, the hardest is not the technical playing but how to play music from the soul.

dulciana said...

I think that everyone who has studied music seriously can relate to what you're feeling. Keep having fun!